The University of Texas: Conference realignment for college athletics

2016-03-17T11:56:12Z (GMT) by Steve Swanson Ram Mudambi Aubrey Kent
In the summer of 2010, the landscape of U.S. college athletics faced the potential for groundbreaking change. The talk of conference realignment was pointing towards a significant shift away from traditional conference membership and structure. With renegotiations for a multi-year television contract looming, Pacific-10 Conference commissioner Larry Scott announced plans for expansion; intent on entering discussions from a position of growth and strength. Looking directly to the east, Scott and the Pac-10 had their eyes on the Big 12 Conference membership. These institutions made the most sense geographically, and also represented sound acquisitions in which to parlay into a lucrative television agreement. In early June, reports surfaced suggesting an aggressive Pac-10 plan that could involve a defection of half of the Big 12 to join a 16-team “super conference.” The first card was played by the University of Colorado when it announced on June 10th that it would in fact be leaving the Big 12 and joining the Pac-10. One day later, the University of Nebraska announced its decision to leave the Big 12 and join the Big Ten Conference. Momentum seemed to be leaning toward the dissolution of one of the country’s most prominent athletic conferences. Over the course of the next few days, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe ramped up his efforts to keep the remaining architecture of the conference intact. In this critical period, the formation of key alliances proved pivotal in determining the fate of the Big 12. With factors such as resources, exposure, fit, and tradition taken into consideration by institutions and conferences, what emerged clearly was the dominant position of the University of Texas in the overall scenario. During those tenuous summer days, it became increasingly apparent that the decision made by Texas would carry with it the most significant ramifications. Would Texas also opt to leave a faltering Big 12 and bring about a paradigm shift of college athletics? Or would it elect to stay and explore its options within the recently-transformed landscape of the remaining membership?